February 17-19, 2017: Berlinale 67

Photo Album: https://goo.gl/photos/5RVFxjGGGw1VyYeE6

The cinema club did a trip to the Berlin Film Festival, which they say is the only thing to do in Europe in February. That’s all 3 major film festival in a one year span that I’ll have attended. It’s the last weekend of the festival. So everything is already winding down. Even at the souvenir shop. They’ve ran out of all the good things already like the backpacks and T-shirts.

Our arrival was a fiasco. So we were staying as a group at an Airbnb that Michelle booked, but she was on a later flight because she booked last minute for some reason. We landed around 3:45 and called the host at 4. We arrived around 4:45 at the place and no one was there. We called the number Michele gave Gaston, which is different from the number she gave me and different than the one on the itinerary. The problem is it isn’t a person, but a company that runs several of these apartment Airbnbs. The guy answered and said there was someone waiting there for 20 minutes and then he left to go to meet someone else. But that wasn’t true because we were there. I asked he guy for the number of the person who was supposed to meet us and then he hung up. I tried the other numbers and no one answered. We waited for 20 minutes in the rain before we finally gave up. We couldn’t reach anyone anymore. They stopped answering the phone. Then we left and got texts from two of the numbers. One said he’d been waiting for two hours, another blatant lie. That’s not physically possible. There was definitely no one there, and two hours would’ve put him back before we even got there. The other guy told us to get there in the next 5 minutes and we wouldn’t have to pay a 30 euro late fee, which is ridiculous because we weren’t late and that’s a lot for nothing. They also charged us a towel fee, 7 euro per person, which is even more ridiculous. I stopped answering the texts. I wanted to let Michele decide and make the executive decision, as president of the club and the person who reserved the place. None of us really wanted to stay there anymore after all that trouble they gave us. It was so poorly run. Even though the rest of us were ready to book a hotel (which may have come out cheaper and more convenient at the end of the day using the Hotel Tonight App), Michele didn’t want to give up the reservation because she paid for it already. She wasn’t sure if she’d get a full refund. I think she would have. Because it was really unbelievable. I’ve never had such a bad experience with Airbnb. She met the host later on, and didn’t even get to see a movie the first night she got in so late. She was too late to have dinner with us. We all felt really bad for Michele.

In the meantime, we dropped our stuff off at Gianna’s hotel and Gaston ran off with his backpack to catch a screening. She did not stay with us. She stayed at a nice hotel close to the main movie palace. She does like nice hotels. As reward for going to her hotel with her (she didn’t want people to see her checking in alone), I got free breakfast at the hotel the next day.

We tried to buy tickets for the evening, but we didn’t really know what we were doing. Film festivals have a learning curve, but we didn’t have time for a learning curve. At Cannes, it took us a couple of days to figure it out. Here, the festival was already ending and everyone else already knew what they were doing. It isn’t as simple as just buying tickets. The tickets online sold out instantly, so it was hard to buy tickets online, but that didn’t mean they were sold out in person. We first tried the Cinemaxx theater, but they were only selling tickets for the Cinemaxx and only for the screening within the next hour. We couldn’t find the box office at Berlinale Palast. That’s because it was at the theater next door where they were showing Blue Man Group. Gianna stood in the cancellations line not knowing if they’ve actually have tickets or not, but she waited to see. In the meantime, Scarlet and I walked into the mall to see if we could find more information. Oddly enough, the mall is where the tickets are. There is a booth for Mastercard cardholders and one for everyone else. They only sell tickets for screenings on future dates. That only meant tomorrow. And some of those are sold out already. The mall is where the gift shop is too. We should’ve sent a scouting group the previous weekend to figure it out and buy us tickets and souvenirs and things. We did it all wrong and then we ended up wasting time figuring out the system. I was really stressed out. Everything was just so difficult. If we had more time, I think I would’ve been able to relax a bit more, but I wanted to see some movies!

At dinner, I ordered a sausage salad. I’ve never ordered salad before in my life, but it was predominantly cheese and sausage, but in thin rectangular prisms. It was good but the dressing was too much. It was cold. Apparently, it’s a traditional German dish.

Gianna stood in line and it paid off. She got us three tickets (not together) for the evening premiere of Logan at Berlinale Palast in Marlene Dietrich Platz that night. Gaston was one of the lucky few who already had tickets online. She needed to pull someone to stand next to her so she could buy us three because there was a limit of two per person. But she came through for us!

Logan: http://tylerstakes.blogspot.it/2017/02/logan-2017.html

We caught glimpses of Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart on the red carpet.  Hugh Jackman is even better looking in person. It was a very pleasant surprise because we thought they were at an earlier screening. The palace is really big and tall. The front is all clear glass so you can see inside, and you can see out. There are several levels, and the walls are lined in portraits of the stars/directors of the films in competition. When they premiere, they sign their portraits on the wall. It’s kind of cute.


Gianna really worked some magic, because we had great seats. I literally sat 8 rows behind the cast. The guy behind me pointed out the lady in charge of operations. He is a Berliner and he comes every year. If you’re a local and you know the system, it’s great. He said when the lady moves, the stars will be ready to enter the room. That’s how you know. It was a lot of fun. The movie was actually pretty good, not just a mindless superhero movie. And nothing like the previous X-Men films either. This was really a more mature movie. And a very violent one.  The stars went up on stage afterwards rand said a couple words. There was no standing ovation though. I was so used to standing ovations at Cannes, I thought this was weird. I thought they’d give us a chance at the end of the credits, but the cast went straight up, so there was no standing ovation. The film did merit one, I think.

Here is their entrance: https://goo.gl/photos/Ff47UdmHGNpTyary5

The movie ended over an hour later than Gaston had told Michele. And it took us a long time to get home by metro. We felt bad because she was home alone the whole night. She wanted to go out and we were all exhausted after the movie, but we couldn’t say no to her. So we went out for drinks at least. She was at a bar by herself until we got back. We got there and waited another 10 minutes outside the apartment for her to return and then go back out. She didn’t have phone service, so it made everything more difficult. She was late getting back. While we waited we found a key and a ten cent swiss franc on the windowsill. Thought it might’ve been some kind of secret message she left us. Like apartment 10 and here’s the key, but that wasn’t it. I might ‘ve also left a sarcastic comment on her voicemail not realizing it was recording. I don’t think she heard it, hopefully. We went to the craft beer place that she had just come from about 15 minutes away but they were closing. She was the last call. So we just continued down the street to find another place. It was already past 2am at this point. We stayed out until about 4. And we were already exhausted since Logan. And yet we went out.

The apartment itself is nice though. I got my own bed. Michele bought a bunch of fruit and groceries. She made breakfast the next morning, but I had already left to catch my 9:30 am screening. Crazy, aren’t I? Michele had tickets for a 9:30 am screening too, but she skipped it. Like I said, we were out till 4. The theater wasn’t even close. I had to take the metro pretty far. I was worried I was going to fall asleep on the train and get lost. The theaters are spread out all over the city because they just use regular cinemas and theaters. The one I went to was Friedrichstadt Palast, which usually hosts things like Cirque du Soleil—it has a semicircular stage. Cannes is more manageable, where all the theaters are along the Croisette, but there are significantly less theaters. And if you’re opening it all to the public, I guess it makes sense that it’s all over. Though Venice was also just a few screens open to the public all on Lido.

The movie was about 60% full. I got a very good seat for myself, unassigned. The theater has a retro art deco style. I watched a Chinese animation in competition called Hao Ji Le (Have a Nice Day—not a direct translation). It was really strange.

Have a Nice Day: http://tylerstakes.blogspot.it/2017/02/have-nice-day-hao-ji-le-2017.html

As promised, after my movie, I met Gianna at the Mariott and I had brunch. There was a nice breakfast buffet. It really hit the spot. We rushed over to the underground tour of Berlin that Evan recommended. But we were late. Partially because the station was big and we couldn’t find the exit and when we did, it was on the wrong side. We were about five minutes late for the English tour and got in line and contemplated if we should go on the French tour in 30 minutes or the Italian one (a different longer more expensive tour). But luckily, we didn’t have to make that choice because the English tour was late and we got 2 of the last 4 tickets. We got very lucky there.

We toured two fallout shelters. One was an old bomb shelter and the other was a train station that converts into a fallout shelter by closing all the entrances. It was really cool. Neither of them were ever used. They were actually never meant to work. Fallout shelters would only ever work for a few days. They were expensive facades to leave the public to think they could survive nuclear war. You can’t. The lesson is there is no hope in a nuclear war, we’re all dead anyways. The tour guide was pretty funny. He is Dutch. He talked nonstop really fast without breathing. He made a rather dreary subject pretty funny.

No trip to Berlin is complete without visiting the Brandenburg Gate. There is a statue on top of the gate that Napoleon liked and took for himself. The Germans took it back when he was defeated and renamed it Victory. They then named the square Pariser Platz, it’s like victory over Paris. The American embassy is there and it is not heavily guarded.

We tried to go inside the dome of the Reichstag building, where the Parliament meets, but we needed a reservation. We walked by the Gypsy memorial, the Holocaust memorial and the Soveit memorial. The Gypsy memorial is small. The Holocaust one is very big. It is made up of columns aligned in rows, forming a maze of sorts. They start out very short, making waves, but in the center they are very tall, but in sunken ground. So you can’t tell from far away how deep or vast it is. It’s really well done. The Soviet memorial is kind of strange. It was built by the Soviets when they conquered Berlin. They built it immediately. The Americans couldn’t tear it down because that was technically East Berlin, though it’s really right on the border.

Checkpoint Charlie is a total tourist trap. The German guys just stand there in American army uniforms. There is a facsimile of the “You Are Now Entering the American Sector” sign. And actual traffic runs through there now.


I went by myself to the Topographies of Terror exhibit at the old Gestapo SS headquarters. It’s not that big, but there is a lot of reading. In fact, it’s all reading. They definitely have pictures and documents but there are only printed versions of them, not originals. I was so tired. I had to just sit a little bit. But I went through all the main sections. It’s very thorough and interesting. It does not shy away from the issue, it’s quite confrontational. It’s a really devastating exhibit. An important one.

There are fragments of the Berlin Wall all over the city. Unfortunately, I did not go to the East Side Gallery, but Topographies of Terror had a large section, and it really is everywhere. Unless it is a particularly famous piece, it just looks like wall.

Gianna’s concierge recommended us a Thai restaurant called Goodtime. It was really far. And I walked all the way there. I had plenty of time anyhow. I was tired though. Still only running on 4 hours of sleep. I had planned the day such that I had an early morning screening, a late-night screening and sightseeing in between. Good plan in theory, but I didn’t factory in exhaustion. Gianna was satisfied seeing Logan, so she gave up her ticket to Scarlet. Scarlet and I saw a Chinese movie called “The Taste of Betel Nut.” It takes place in Hainan, and it was kind of interesting seeing this part of China I’m not very familiar with. It’s a totally different culture. The theater was a regular cinema, but it was huge. It looked IMAX size. There were some German people in the audience yelling at each other or discussing something or just talking. We couldn’t tell if they knew each other or not. But the theater was totally silent just listening to them. Eventually someone that worked there came over and there was a part that was in English, but they’re definitely all German. So I was very confused. Then she talked to someone else too. It was very unclear if they were friends or not.

The Taste of Betel Nut: http://tylerstakes.blogspot.it/2017/02/the-taste-of-betel-nut-bing-lang-xue.html

We returned to the apartment around 1. The most annoying thing about sharing the Airbnb was coordinating with the rest of our group when to get back, because we didn’t have enough keys. And everyone was on different schedules. We luckily caught them when they went back to change. Yushuang, Michele and Claudio went out, but I just crashed. Claudio didn’t get back until I woke up the next day at 8am, right before we had to leave for our flight.

Shoenberg Airport sucks. It is basically a bunch of warehouses. It’s not even a real building. It looks like they should have Ikea showrooms. It’s like a temporary permanent airport. When we came into Berlin, they got us off the plane and then we waited on the tarmac for a bus. The bus literally just took us across the road. But to do that, it went around the whole airport so it could turn around. It’s so stupid. You have to wait forever for people to deplane before you can get on the plane because of this silly system. So in conclusion, we started off rough in Berlin, but I did a lot in a short period of time and ended up having a pretty successful weekend.

This cafe at the mall had a tower of trash. And the cafe is called “Oh Angie!”

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